Look, it's (500) Days of Spidey! The first half of The Amazing Spider-Man is the most expensive indie movie ever made. Sure, there's all the flashy battles and special effects expected for a comic book-based summer blockbuster, but (500) Days of Summer director Mark Webb (insert last name joke here) and writers James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves have crafted a film that focuses more on character than spectacle ... at least for the first hour. There's plenty of spectacle after that, but it's easier to get invested in the clichés after we've gotten up close and personal with the players.
It's been 10 years since Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man flick, and five years since the last installment, so God knows we needed a reboot of the series. I mean, how could today's now-a-go-go kids relate to the ancient goings-on between 2002 - 2007? So here we are, facing the origin story again, with a new, cheaper cast.
Enough cynicism. This Spider-Man origin movie is better than the 2002 original. Andrew Garfield (who mumbles a lot like Jeremy Davies, the time-travel professor from Lost) is a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire (more convincing and much less smirky) and Emma Stone does fine work as female lead Gwen Stacy. I liked the Aunt May and Uncle Ben from the original (Rosemary Harris and the great Cliff Robertson) considerably more than the new pair, played by Sally Field (very frazzled) and Martin Sheen (sporting shiny new choppers), but I doubt that would be a deal-breaker for anyone.
Incidentally, Uncle Ben doesn't say "with great power comes great responsibility" this time. Instead, Martin Sheen rambles on about the subject while avoiding those specific words. I can understand why the director chose not to repeat the iconic quote, but I missed it nonetheless.
Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors, a researcher looking for a way to regenerate his lost arm. He turns into a giant lizard guy and goes nuts, giving Spider-Man someone to fight with besides Gwen's disapproving police chief pappy (Denis Leary, a tad less annoying than usual). Lizard-Man isn't a particularly memorable foe, but he gets the job done.
The two hour, 16 minute film is essentially a teen romance (Daddy don't understand!) and coming-of-age story (My body has become more powerful and I can shoot white stuff!) with a Special Effects Spectacular attached, but almost all of it works, thanks to the lead actors, a script that tempers its darker tone with humor, and some fine choices made by director Webb and his crew. As far as totally needless remakes go, this is one of the better ones.